Sunday, February 21, 2010

One-on-One Animal Assisted Therapy

Guest blogger Paul Westerfield is back with a post about Nana the Newfoundland's work as a therapy dog in an elder-care community.

Resident Goals: improve upper body strength, range of motion and improve socialization.

Week One
Introduced Nana to the resident; had the resident brush Nana to improve range of motion. Nana then pulled the resident in his wheel chair around the skilled nursing unit. There the resident introduced Nana to other residents while improving his upper body strength.

Week Two
Resident participated in a dog scavenger hunt. Resident was taken through the health centers via dog power while looking for a trail of paw prints and answering questions that were found along the way. All questions were dog related and dealt with the resident’s personal history. The resident then went to different areas of the health centers to introduce the dog to other residents.

Week Three
Nana was running late on this day. Upon arrival, we found the resident anxious and ready to go. He said he wanted to introduce Nana around the whole building. Nana pulled him throughout all areas of the complex. Total time and distance: 45 minutes and about a mile. Nana stopped along the way to meet people, creating an environment where the resident had to interact with others.

Week Four
Upon arriving at the resident’s room, he stated that he did not want to participate on this day because he was not feeling well. We convinced him to go out for just a short time. Nana once again pulled him throughout the building, stopping and visiting with other residents. We then went to a room that had been set up with traffic cones for working the Nana. The resident directed her in and out of the cones, telling her which way to turn. He learned the commands to tell Nana to start, stop, turn right, turn left and turn around. After about an hour Nana returned him to his room. He stated that he was glad he had gone and he was feeling much better.

The resident has been talking about his activities with his occupational and physical therapists, as well as other residents. He has made it known that he enjoys his Nana time and always looks forward to his workout. A second resident has inquired about participation in the program. Starting in week 5 we will have Denali (the bronze Newfoundland) working with the new resident.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Power of Dog

Guest blogger, Paul Westerfield, shares a recent experience involving his therapy dog, Nana the Newfoundland.

On a recent visit to the Pediatric ICU at a local hospital, Nana proved to me once again the value of therapy dogs. 

Upon arrival we visited with a few young patients while always hearing a young child’s cry in the background. As we progressed down the hall, we finally reached the room of an 8-month-old, sitting on his distraught mother's lap. Entering the room Nana sat for a few moments then moved directly up to the crying child. Nana was met by silence. A few seconds later the baby erupted in a big smile. Both the nursing staff and the mother explained that the child had been crying for at least three hours nonstop. The baby also had been trying to pull out his IV, which ceased upon Nana’s arrival.

We visited for half an hour or more, during which time the baby was quiet and playfully grabbing hold of Nana’s ears. Nana gave the baby a few Newf kisses and licked the remaining tears away. At the end of the visit, the child was yawning and about to fall asleep. Nana was no further than 10 feet from the room when we heard the baby crying again. We returned to the room and again the baby stopped crying immediately. I had Nana rest her head on the mothers lap so she and the baby were cheek to cheek. The baby fell asleep within a couple minutes and Nana was able to quietly slip out of the room.

We were stopped by a Pediatrician before we could leave the ICU. He inquired as to Nana’s breed, training and how often we visited. He felt that the magic she worked was extremely beneficial to all involved, especially the staff and the mother. He thanked us, as did all the medical personnel on the unit. 

Nana’s behavior earned her a cheeseburger reward that day. Nana acted well … just like a Nana.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dementia and AAT

Murphy and I are part of a year-long project created to determine the benefits of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) for individuals with dementia living in the memory unit of an elder-care facility. The project is divided into 10-week sessions, followed by a week off for debriefing, then another 10 weeks. This post is about the third week of session 1. 

Week 3. At 2:30 four of the six residents involved in our project made their way to our meeting room. Murphy greeted each one, all wags and happy dog energy. We re-introduced ourselves. Then Murphy and I left the room while one of the interns gave someone in the room a treat to hide in her hand. Murphy and I were called back into the room and Murphy's job was to find the treat with his nose. With the cue "find the treat", he went from person to person, snuffling hands in search of something tasty. The ladies laughed out loud as he went from one to the other until he found what he was looking for. When he did, he was rewarded with the treat and lots of "atta boys". We repeated this exercise with each individual and it met with the same result each time.

Next, Murphy and I left the room again. This time the residents - with assistance from the interns - prepared for the muffin pan game (see Murphy demo the game here). Each resident had the opportunity to choose a treat from a container, drop it into the muffin pan and place a tennis ball on top of it. When fully loaded, the tin was placed on the floor and Murphy and I re-entered the room. Murphy removed one tennis ball at a time, finding the treat beneath it. His audience laughed, encouraged him and when he finished - applauded his effort. The applause (which Murphy seems to love) was met with him taking a big, beautiful bow - which brought more applause and laughter.

After the muffin pan game, the interns guided the group, with Murphy in the lead, out into the hall for a "scavenger hunt". There were paw prints taped to the walls for the ladies to follow. If there was any question about what direction to go, on cue Murphy would rise on his hind legs and touch the next paw print on the wall. Along the way the ladies found questions about pets they have had in their lives. Ex.: Did your pets live in the house or outside? These questions prompted short conversations with an intern or Murphy and me. As we made our way back to the meeting room, the ladies interacted with Murphy, talking to him and touching his head or back as he made his way from one to the next.

Back in our meeting room, Murphy demonstrated his version of retrieving. I tossed a remote control under a chair. Then I pointed and asked him to pick it up and bring it to me. He did just that, delivering the remote to my hand. Again, the ladies were very vocal with their praise for Murphy, petting him enthusiastically at every opportunity. For our last activity of the hour, I asked each lady to come forward individually and stand in front of Murphy. Then I whispered a cue and she asked for that behavior. Sit, down, and take a bow were performed flawlessly, each lady being very proud of the fact that she could get Murphy to do what she asked.

We then made the rounds one last time, saying goodbye to each lady. Each left the room happy, spirits lifted by interaction with a therapy dog.  

Note: One of our regulars does not remember Murphy's name. It is common for her to ask his name a dozen or more times in a short period. On this day, twice when she asked the question "What is his name", she responded before I could with ... "Murphy". And THAT is why we do what we do. Job well done, Murph!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dementia and animal-assisted therapy

Murphy is my 4-year-old chocolate Lab. He and I are a Delta Society Pet Partners team. We are part of a year-long project created to determine the benefits of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) for individuals with dementia living in the memory unit of an elder-care facility. The project is divided into 10-week segments, followed by a week off for debriefing, then another 10 weeks. The goal is to have measurable results at the end of 2010. The project was created by the recreation therapist on-site at the facility with input from members of my therapy dog team, Life's Journey.

Week 1. Six residents were selected to participate in the year-long project. Each had been identified by staff as liking dogs. A room within the memory unit was designated as our meeting room. Murphy and I arrived early and greeted each resident as he or she arrived. The hour included introductions, hands-on interaction with Murphy for each individual, and a photo session providing the opportunity for each resident to have a picture taken with Murphy. The end of the hour found Murphy making his way around the room saying goodbye to each resident.

Week 2. We started with Murphy escorting individuals from their rooms to our meeting room. Next everyone got individual one-on-one time to interact with Murphy. Lots of petting, hugging and an occasional Murphy kiss. The room felt charged with positive energy as we began the hour-long session. First, staff invented a game where one resident at a time picks a card with a one of Murphy's trained behaviors on it, like "down". Murphy and I stood in the middle of the room and one at a time a resident would rise, walk to us, and ask Murph to do what was on their card. It was great fun, my canine partner all smiles and happy to accommodate his elderly friends. Murphy's only confusion came when one of the residents walked to him and held the card in front of his face so he could read it ... Next, staff distributed 11x17 calendars they created using the pictures taken during Week 1. The calendar is for the month we are currently in and includes the individual's picture with Murphy, dates for AAT, the resident's name, and information about Murphy. Each resident got to "walk" Murphy to his or her room to hang the calendar. On these walks, Murphy wears two leashes: a short one attached to his buckle collar for the resident to hold and his standard four-foot leash (that I hold) attached to his Martingale calendar so I can direct my dog. Residents love this, talking with people along the way, showing off their four-legged friend. We ended with more flash cards and a question from one of the residents: "Does Murphy speak French?" He does not now but may well know a few French words by year's end.

Follow along throughout the year as we share the results of regular AAT visits in this population.